Written by Dave Lavinsky on Monday, December 7, 2009
Not long ago, the sky seemed like it was falling. The Dow dropped to an annual low of 6,547 and the media was forecasting more and more gloom. And those familiar with the venture world were saying that funding was near impossible.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Monday, December 7, 2009
Imagine for a moment that you were really great at something, but never acted on it.
How would your life, and the lives of others been impacted?
Let's take Michael Jordan. What would have happened if he never picked up a basketball? What would he be doing today? (I would bet he wouldn't be retired.) How much wealth would he and his family have lost out on?
Interestingly, a lot of people think that opportunities are lost or squandered when people are young. This is clearly not always the case.
Consider Grandma Moses. Grandma Moses loved painting as a child. But, she and her family didn't consider painting to be a real, paying job, so she spent decades earning a living doing embroidery work.
But, this all changed when Grandma Moses reached her seventies. Her arthritis worsened and she was unable to continue doing embroidery. So, Grandma Moses finally set out to do what she loved - painting.
She went to an Arts & Crafts store, purchased some supplies, and went to work. Within a few years, Grandma Moses would be creating two paintings a week. And each of these paintings would earn her more than she earned in a lifetime doing embroidery. In fact, in her eighties and nineties, she made paintings that would earn her over $300,000 each.
Now let's look at the impact of Grandma Moses' decision to start painting. Financially, she made millions. Money that would help her grandchildren get better educations, get better health coverage and live better lives. She also generated thousands in tax dollars which, among other things, would help fund essential projects. She generated jobs; she must have had assistants who helped her purchase supplies, arrange art showings, and handle her travel and financial affairs.
And then there are the millions of people that Grandma Moses touched by simply allowing them to look at her beautiful paintings.
Yes, even at an elderly age, Grandma Moses made an impact on millions of people.
But what about you and I?
The fact is that each of us have talents. And when we choose to reveal them, and nurture them, and fight to use them - essentially, when we choose to become true entrepreneurs - we positively impact many lives.
Because of this fact, I was not surprised by the Kauffman Foundation's recent study entitled "Where Will The Jobs Come From?" The study reveals clear evidence that "new and young companies and the entrepreneurs that create them are the engines of job creation and eventual economic recovery."
In fact, since 1977, net job creation in the American economy would have been negative in all but a handful of years if not for startups and young companies (defined as < 5 years of age). And even in good times, like in 2007, when 12 million new jobs were added, two-thirds of the new jobs were created by startups.
So, if you are debating starting a business, now's the time to do it. If you have an existing business and are thinking about new growth initiatives, now is the time to launch them.
Yes, now is the time. It's not just about your personal satisfaction. It's about the tens, hundreds, thousands and even millions of lives that you can positively influence with your gift of entrepreneurship. It's time to really put that gift to use.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, December 7, 2009
As many of you I am sure are aware, there has been a major gold bull run since the start of the year. While pulling back slightly in the last few days, the price of an ounce of gold touched a record $1,227.50 on Thursday, December 3rd.
Most of the rally has been driven by widespread inflation fears, which in turn are driven by the massive and unprecedented deficits that most of the major industrial governments (save China, of course) seem committed to running for as far as the eye can see.
Gold - say the wise men - is the ideal inflation hedge, which of course is another way of saying that it is the ideal hedge against governments acting badly and confiscating the well-earned wealth of its productive citizens.
Now I would never begrudge anyone that likes betting against government as an investment strategy, but by golly if there ever was an investment that just outright appeals to the uninformed (and those who prey on them), it is gold.
Let's take a step back here, folks, and think a bit about the word "investing," defined by Webster's as "the active redirection of resources/assets to creating benefits in the future."
Now can someone please explain to me how an asset that doesn't yield or produce ANYTHING, and costs money to store, could possibly be considered an investment?
The answer, quite simply, is that gold isn't an investment. Gold, as jewelry or decoration, or accoutrement, is beautiful. Gold as investment is a cult.
A cult of negativity and pessimism, to be more precise. And one in which it would be funny if it is wasn't so sad how many of the older generation in this great country of ours are caught up.
Spend a little time amongst the retired set talking about both investing and the future of America and the amount of fear, negativity, and of an all-consuming mindset of concern for one's own hide and to heck with everyone else falls somewhere between depressing and appalling.
A particularly galling trick of the gold huckster industry (coming to a talk radio or billboard ad near you) is to first promote with great fury their "sky is falling" shtick, then suggest that the only solution is not to just buy gold (that would be bad enough), but to buy gold COINS versus the bullion itself (or far more efficiently, a gold ETF like State Street's Gold Spider (NYSE: GLD)).
What they don't tell you is that they mark these coins up as much as 30% - making almost as much money for themselves as the Pirates of old. And oh yes, if gold bullion and coins were regulated investment assets as they should be, they would call that amount of markup a crime.
How About Actually Investing?
Now let's look at the polar opposite of investing in gold - namely investing in the most productive, most effective, most wealth-building sector of our economy.
I am talking of course about investing in the modern-day action heroes that are the world's entrepreneurs. The men and women who right now are starting and building the Googles, the LinkedIns, the Facebooks, the Twitters, the Apples, the Microsofts, the Amazons, of the next 20 years.
They are passionately at work at the new and young companies where the ideas are freshest, where the work ethic is most profound, and where the innovation breakthroughs are most world-changing.
And unlike investors in gold, who have gotten a negative long-term return since 1980 (on an inflation adjusted-basis, gold's $599/ounce price peak in 1981 price translates in today's $ to $1,417/ounce, investors in entrepreneurial and small companies have killed it - earning a whopping 21.4% annually during that same time frame.
So this holiday season, buy that special someone a gold necklace, or earrings, or bracelet, or gold-plated watch, for sure.
But if you want to give yourself a gift, hang up on the gold hucksters and instead find and back the entrepreneurs in your midst.
They will TRULY be the gift that keeps on giving.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Many of you might recall that I interviewed Bambi Francisco, founder of Vator.tv, months ago.
If you’re not familiar, Vator.tv is an online community that allows entrepreneurs to showcase their ventures and communicate with customers, partners, and investors. I fully recommend that you check out Vator.tv.
But that’s actually NOT why I’m writing today…
Today I wanted to tell you about Vator’s upcoming “Splash” competition, which will showcase 10 promising startups, and the hottest companies in social gaming and iPhone app development. Plus, you can meet and network with elite venture capitalists.
Best of all, I’m excited to announce that I’ve secured you a 25% discount to this event.
Here are some more details:
On the evening of February 4th, 2010, ten seed- to early-stage companies (selected by their peers) will have the opportunity to pitch the Silicon Valley elite. These 10 companies will also have a high quality video of their presentation produced.
In addition, Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, will talk about how he built the leading social gaming company in a few years, and Jeff Smith, CEO of Smule, will talk about how he built some of the hottest iPhone apps.
Additionally, venture capitalists from Google Ventures, August Capital, Greycroft Partners and Norwest Venture Partners will also be present.
To submit an early stage company to pitch, click here:
If you’d like to attend the event, you can reserve your 25% discounted ticket or pitch table below by using discount code: Vatorgrowthink, here:
Note: This special 25% discount ends December 11th.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Have you ever driven somewhere, gotten there, and forgot about the last minutes of the drive? You know that you were driving. But your mind must have been somewhere else, since you can't really remember the turns you made, the lights you stopped at, etc.
Growthink University members can download the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/378.cfm
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, November 30, 2009
A very, important study of U.S. Economic Census Data conducted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, was published last week that statistically demonstrates who really creates jobs in the American economy.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, November 24, 2009
When Jay Turo and I founded Growthink a decade ago, we each had a ton of responsibilities.
To hear a short clip of the interview, click the blue triangle on the player below:
Growthink University members can download the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/376.cfm
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, November 23, 2009
Thanksgiving is thequintessential American holiday. It acknowledges the best qualities ofour blessed land - rewards for hard work, diversity as strength, andthe "attitude of gratitude" toward which all of us strive.
Asevery school boy and girl knows (or, in our 21st century world of videogames and politically correct education, should know), Thanksgivingtraces its origin from a 1621 Pilgrim harvest feast to celebrate a successfulgrowing season and survival after an extremely difficult first winterin the New World.
And at that harvest feast these Pilgrims from England and the original inhabitants of the area - the Wampanoag Indians - sat down and ate together in a spirit of friendship and camaraderie. The Pilgrims owed their survival to the goodwill of the Indians, whohad taught them how to grow corn and how to fish in the very unfamiliarNew England (now) soil and seas.
What a story. If it doesn't get you going, then you aren't even trying. Let me help:
First, let's reflecton the incredible guts, tenacity, sense of adventure, and justunbelievable hard work and perseverance of the Pilgrims. It beyonddefies our modern, cushy-soft sensibilities. Let's channel thetoughness of the Pilgrims when tackling the challenges of our modernday - health care, deficits, China, et al.
Next, while thehistory of the white man's treatment of the native peoples of Americain the last 500 years has been mostly shameful, let's reflect onthat happy day of brotherhood.
Let's all be proud of thehistorically unique diversity of modern America. Doubt me? Spend theday as I did yesterday with my 2 and 3 - year old boys at LegoLandin Carlsbad.
As we sat building towers and cars and the kinds ofplanes that only fly in little boy's imaginations, I looked to my leftand I saw an intent Indian boy and his father hard at work.
To myright, an African-American girl directing her Daddy how she we wantedit done. Behind me, a family with Asiatic features happily building.
As for language, only me with my thick Massachusetts accent spokeanything but perfect English.
There is NOWHERE on Earth this scenerepeats itself as often and as peaceably and as productively as it doesin America. Japan? China? The Middle East? Europe? Hah!Still mostly medieval in their perspectives on these matters, and inour information age America has a MASSIVE leg-up because of it.
And finally, let's give thanks. Iam not proud of it, but I am still addicted to reading the Sunday NewYork Times. And what a tale of woe it is. And while I know the #1 ruleof modern media - "if it bleeds, it leads," please just stop.
Betweenthe dire talk of global warming, global terrorism, and global finance,if you don't catch yourself you can't help but feel sorry for not justyou, but for all of humanity.
It is 99% bunk. The world has NEVER offered more opportunities for a larger percentage of us tolive affluent lives, to do self-expressive, remunerative work, and tobe amazed daily by the wonders of modern technology and entertainment than it does right now.Be grateful for all that and more.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. May your holiday be blessed withthe rewards of hard work, of breaking bread with family and friends newand old, and with an attitude of gratitude for the bounties the futurewill most definitely hold.
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Written by Jay Turo on Monday, November 23, 2009
At Growthink, our mission is "to serve the world's entrepreneurs." When I share this with folks, they often come back to me with "Who are these entrepreneurs that are your mission to serve?" Touché.
So who is and who isn't an entrepreneur?
I like Professor Arthur O'Sullivan's definition, from "Economics: Principles in Action" the best - "An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of an new enterprise, venture or idea, and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. He or she is an ambitious leader who combines land, labor, and capital to often create and market new goods or services."
In the U.S. alone, this represents the more than 6 million new businesses started every year, and the many, many millions more contemplated. The figure worldwide is a BIG multiple of this.
Thank heavens for all of them - according to a famous M.I.T study new business starts account for more than 2/3 of all net new job creation. Especially as by far the biggest economic issue facing America (and the world, for that matter) is job creation, these entrepreneurs truly hold the key to our nation's and the world's long-term prosperity more than any other group.
Individuals LEADING Small Companies. Per that M.I.T study, the other 1/3 of net new job creation comes from the so-called "gazelles," - rapidly growing, emerging companies. The most common statistical definition of these are the 641,000 U.S. firms with between 20 to 1,000 employees. They, along with startups, account for more than 62% of all private sector employment.
Anyone that has spent even a day at a gazelle can literally breathe the entrepreneurship in the air. The best of them are led by deeply ambitious men and women walking the talk of American business. The President, in his inaugural speech, described them best:
"Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated, but more often, men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom."
Let us hope he and our Washington leaders think often of these inspirationally hard-working folks when crafting governmental policy in the months and years to come.
All of us know small business men and women - that while certainly possessing of many wonderful attributes - for whom it would be a big stretch to describe them as "ambitious leaders."
To best illustrate, I suggest you attend a meeting of your local chamber of commerce and hear how much of the debate is focused on problems and grievances versus vision and possibility. Sad, but true.
The "Non-obvious" Entrepreneurs
I find the startup and small business entrepreneurs worthy of great praise and respect. In some ways, I am even MORE impressed with those that demonstrate strong, ambitious, principled entrepreneurial leadership in the contexts of bureaucracy, politics, and vexing social challenges.
Here are a few:
Bono, arguably the world's best known philanthropic celebrity, is an entrepreneur on two fronts. First, via his commitment to world-class creative output as the leader of the mega-rock band U2. And he is an entrepreneur, via his unique effectiveness as an activist and spokesperson and doer of big projects for causes close to his heart - human rights, third world debt relief, and AIDS and African development issues. If you think it is tough to get a city business permit, try getting governments of affluent nations to work together to solve global social challenges that barely garner a back-page sentence or two in the "it bleeds, it leads media" that voters back home call news.
Because entrepreneurship as its essence is about creation, and the success of one entrepreneur ANYWHERE results in a better life for everyone EVERYWHERE.
I look forward to your attendance and feedback.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Saturday, November 21, 2009
This past Tuesday, Warren Buffett and Goldman Sachs announced that they were donating $500 million to assist 10,000 small businesses in the U.S.
To begin, this is pretty cool. Any money invested in small businesses is sure to lead to more jobs and an improved economy. And even better when this money is not coming from taxpayer dollars.
However, what I found most interesting was where Buffet decided to invest the $500 million. I say "Buffett" and not Goldman Sachs, since Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is the largest shareholder in Goldman Sachs, giving me the impression that he was calling the shots on this one.
According to Bloomberg.com, the moneys will be allocated as follows: "$200 million to local community colleges, universities and other institutions to provide small-business owners with practical business education.... $300 million through a combination of lending and philanthropic support to community development financial institutions."
$200 million to "practical business education" - that's what rang out the loudest to me. As one of the greatest investors ever, Buffett knows first hand that entrepreneurs that succeed are the ones who have the right business education and training.
Successful entrepreneurs realize that they themselves are one of their organization's greatest assets. As such, they constantly invest in themselves by taking courses, reading books, and upgrading all of their key skills.
Regarding the other $300 million, it is being provided to community development financial institutions (CDFIs). CDFIs generally provide financing and related services to individuals and small businesses in struggling or underserved communities. If you have or would like to start a business in one of these communities, go to CFDI Coalition website to find a list of certified CFDIs.
Finally, speaking of practical business training, I'm unveiling a brand-new version of Growthink University this week.
Learn more, here:
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